Empanadas 3 – San Juan

2005.Jul.19 Tuesday · 9 comments

in Food & Recipes, Restaurants

El SanjuaninoBuenos Aires – A bit further south than the other two empanada regions I’ve looked at is the province of San Juan. Along the western border with Chile, just north of the midpoint, and just north of the well known wine region of Mendoza. The cuisine of San Juan is considered less rustic than that of the northwest territories, and it shows in what was delivered on the plate.

The only venue that I’ve heard of here that makes a point of specializing in the cuisine of the region is a little place just down the street from the Palais de Glace and the Cementerio that I talked about in my last post. It is called El Sanjuanino (Posadas 1515, Recoleta), a somewhat tourist-oriented spot. While the cuisine is authentic, the ambience leans towards all show. Waiters keep up non-stop chatter and joking around with tables in a mix of Spanish, English, Italian, German, and French. Deep-fried Empanada de San JuanWith the exception of a police officer having lunch at a back table, the remainder of the 40-some seats were all taken up with tourists – quite a few from the U.S., some Australians, an Englishman, and some German couples.

This is the first place that I’ve seen empanadas offered deep-fried, and the specialty of the house is one such filled with ground beef, a ton of onions, and a slightly peppery, slightly tomato-ey sauce – the filling basically reminded me of a sloppy joe! A regular baked carne picante once again ran rampant with onions. Locro de San JuanA bit of research (as much as one can rely on random web sources) reveals that this is the defining element in San Juan’s empanadas – equal parts of chopped meat and onions.

As long as I’ve been following a theme, I also ordered a bowl of the house special locro, the corn based stew I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts. This version was a very rich mix of white corn, puréed squash, lots of salt, and “variety meats” – i.e., tripe and intestine, and several bones that may have once held meat, but no longer did. It was a little salty but quite good. One big plus, there were little bowls of chili paste available to spice it up.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

dan September 6, 2006 at 09:17

This restaurant has come up again several times in recent weeks, and I took a look back this morning at my original review, such as it is. Reading it, it sounds like a place that wouldn’t necessarily come recommended. However, for one reason or another, I’ve been back to El Sanjuanino quite a few times over the last fourteen months since that first visit. I’ve found the service to be warm and welcoming, the clientele much more varied than that first visit, though still heavily touristy or expat – there’s definitely more English being spoken than any other language. I’ve tried a lot of additional dishes, including an amazingly good matambre recoldo, the latter word meaning “ember”, that’s big enough for two to share – a somewhat loosely packed, roll of flank steak and filling that’s cooked in the coals of the parrilla. And I definitely like their empanadas alot. The locro I still find a bit boney and fatty in comparison to some, though with a very rich base and great flavor. I’ve even come to enjoy the house wine served in battered tin pitchers…

bunnie February 23, 2009 at 00:56

I really respect your blog and feel bad that did not find out about it until I left BsAs. I had some cold empanadas at El Sanuanino….in fact, they brought them to me 30 seconds after I ordered, which was very strange. I didn’t bother to ask them to heat them up again. Did I just miss a bad day? The canned music bothered me a bit too. The experience feels manufactured.

dan February 23, 2009 at 09:20

That does sound strange bunnie, I’ve been many times, and it’s often one of the first places I take visiting friends. While the empanadas come out fairly quickly, I’ve never had them come out that fast, nor cold. I also have to admit I never noticed that they even had music, so it probably is canned, background music, which I tend to just tune out.

As noted in my writeup – the place does have a certain orientation towards tourists – while I like their food and always have a good meal, they’re located along a street that’s peppered with high-end hotels, and while they get their share of long-time locals, they also get hit with a large number of visitors. So, yes, I suppose the experience may feel a little “manufactured” – even though it’s been there for decades and the food is authentic, it’s not what one might call an “authentic local” spot. Then again, there’s practically nothing in Recoleta that would be – it’s a wealthy neighborhood that, for the most part, does cater to visitors more than locals.

Mich212 May 20, 2009 at 15:09

I love your website and used it as my (basically only!) resource during my trip to Buenos Aires. I gotta tell you, though — I was really, really sick after eating at El Sanjuanino. I’m pretty sure it was the empanada de lomo, which had a slightly “off” taste that I blamed on the olives until about two hours later, when I was miserably sick.

Not sure what happened there, and I was sad because I wanted to love this restaurant!

dan May 20, 2009 at 18:11

One of those to chalk up to, “who knows?” I eat there about once a month and have been taking people there regularly for 3-1/2 years without a problem. Perhaps one bad batch or bad empanada, or something else entirely. Two hours is awfully quick onset for most types of food poisoning – 4-8 hours is more common, often as much as 10-12 hours. It’s actually far more likely, given that it happened so quickly after dinner, that whatever hit you was from something you ate earlier in the day.

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